Market Seam

architecture Nicole Ridgway, Stephanie Springgay and Nathaniel Stern workshopped a “sentimental construction” at the Kirkgate Market in Leeds UK, as part of Performance Studies International 18 and the Ludus Festival of the Arts. Each construction is a site-conditioned intervention made of minimal materials, performed to amplify public space. For Market Seam, we created a temporary concourse between the indoor and outdoor stalls of the Market. This was done with a series of large-scale knotted lines: stitched cross-beams of tulle and flax. Interestingly, it was a Clothworkers Company that helped fund the college that became the University of Leeds – our host. The seam, an architecture of fabrics and fibers that had once been produced and/or worked with at the recently demolished and nearby White Cloth Hall, created paths and creases, snarls and trajectories in the space between the two markets.

More than 600 onlookers navigated our construction during the morning it was installed. The vast majority of spectators and participants were fascinated by the movement it created, and its reference to and dialog with the material and social histories of Leeds. This was especially true of the young, Muslim traders who helped us set up the work, while chatting to us about why we were there. Alternatively, the management of the Market and some of the older traders had deep “Health and Safety” concerns, despite mountains of risk assessment paperwork, hard won official council permits, and millions of pounds of insurance cover.

The frayed relationship between the Leeds City Council and the Kirkgate Market management, and between the majority of traders – not to mention the participatory market-goers  – and the few who worried over our intervention, became a crucial part of how the work emerged. We were eventually made to tear down the piece before our allotted time was up, but dialog around the tensions it created continued for days afterward, in various venues. Even in its unravelling, our Market Seam generated a great deal of positive impact and discussion.